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Our Story

“Aanchal” is the South Asian word for a covering for the head, as is worn by Asian women. The word commonly symbolises protection, comfort and safety, which are the same principles at the core of all our work.

Aanchal Women’s Aid was founded by Su Bhuhi when a woman needed support to safeguard her children from being taken to South Asia against her will. Su, a survivor herself, took a stand to help protect the women and her children from further harm.

We provide support and services to help people who face challenging life situations so that they can understand their rights and make informed choices.

Aanchal continues to grow from strength to strength. We never lose sight of the person that knocks on our door and their needs. We listen and we understand. We have helped over 40,000 women since 1984.

“We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward, that’s how much Aanchal has helped me.”

“Aanchal brings a uniqueness. It’s the spirit or essence in this place. It’s not just knowledge – it’s a different kind of healing and growth you don’t find in regular settings. There’s a realness and rawness which makes it different from other charities.”

“Aanchal will always be there for us on this long, complex and beautiful journey with Domestic Abuse.”

Our Team

Our team comprises women who are primarily from South Asian communities or have direct experience of South Asian cultures. As well as being highly trained in our field of expertise (IDVA and ISVA qualifications), we have several Asian and European language speakers with unique insight and understanding of the culture and social factors that inhibit the development of individuals, making them vulnerable to abuse.

Many members of our staff and supporters know firsthand the impact of abuse and as such are empathetic to the problems faced by our beneficiaries. 20% of the women we help return to Aanchal as volunteers. These women are now committed to ensuring that no other women should suffer the same.

Our team captures the spirit of Aanchal.

Our current staff consists of three full time and five part time staff, working alongside twelve volunteers. We are supported by a dedicated Board of Trustees who have diverse skills to ensure we are a sustainable and sound organisation, underpinned by values which run throughout the organisation and resonate with our beneficiaries.

You can read more about our team members below:


MBE, Founder, CEO

Born in Africa, lived in India and grew up in London, I set up Aanchal Women’s Aid in 1984.

There was a time in my life where making that call for help would have meant everything in that moment. There was no one to turn to apart from close family members, for whom I did not want to cause grief.

The one thing I held on to was that I hold my own value and I matter. My strength came from that belief and it helped me let go of fear and take the steps one at a time to be free to live my own life. My desire is to support others to find continuous courage they need to create their own path.

Aanchal is here to ensure women, men and children are listened to and by listening we have grown an active connected community. What Aanchal needs now is a space that honours their desire to stay in touch and give back to others.

Saba Butt

Chairperson, Board of Trustees

During my gap year after completing my undergraduate degree, I became a volunteer at Aanchal Women’s Aid in February 2011.

Belonging to an Asian community, I am aware of the social issues that exist within the community and the hardships that many women have to face in the name of culture, honour and family values. I decided to join Aanchal Women’s Aid in order to be able to help such women.

I joined Aanchal as a frontline volunteer advisor in the office as well as being a voluntary advisor on the out of hours emergency helpline for two years. In 2013, I joined the board of trustees as a Chairperson for Aanchal Women’s Aid while continuing to be a voluntary domestic violence advisor on the emergency helpline.

Nilam Vora

Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

I first joined Aanchal in 2010 as a helpline volunteer for two years.

After a couple of years in the US,  I returned to London and was keen to support Aanchal with their digital marketing and social media. I have been a trustee since 2018.

I’ve been supporting domestic violence charities since 2004 and I’m so proud of the dedicated and caring team of staff and volunteers at Aanchal.

Outside of my involvement with Aanchal, I have more than a decade of experience advising professional services companies on marketing, business development, content development, branding and social media.

Kelly Mullane


I began supporting Aanchal Women’s Aid back in 2008 when I was a project manager within Emerging Markets at Barclays Capital, where I was part of the Women’s International Network.

Over the couple of years working with the WIN committee, I raised significant funds for the organisation. In 2010 I, along with the WIN committee, supported Aanchal to launch their Corporate Mentoring Scheme which successfully supported over fifty Aanchal clients to gain confidence in and knowledge of working within the corporate sector.

Through this project I became very involved with Aanchal's future developments and I was successfully recruited as secretary for the charity in 2009.

I graduated from Exeter University with an honours Degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Politics, and I am a NATO-standard Arabic Interpreter. I'm also a qualified teacher with a PGCE in Further Education from the University of Wales, and I served as an officer in the British Army for nearly seven years, attaining the rank of Captain, having served in Iraq, Jordan, Germany and the UK.

I graduated with an MBA from the Open University Business School in 2010.

Martin Real


Martin has been a solicitor at Bowling and Co. since 1996 and a partner since 2002. Martin is a Resolution accredited domestic violence law specialist. 

In the past, Martin has worked for the NHS and is a qualified psychiatric nurse. He knows too well the effects that domestic violence has on mental health.

Martin did some work supporting Haven House in the mid 1990s and was on their advisory board.

Since Martin started work at Bowling and Co back in 1996, he has worked very closely with Aanchal (long before they were an independent charity) and has a strong and very similar belief in their working ethos. Martin and Aanchal have worked together to rescue victims from abusive households for many years.

Martin wanted to be a part of Aanchal’s development and growth, and so became an Aanchal trustee in 2011. Since his time in this role he has supported the CEO with the organisational Newham borough strategy and supported the charity to obtain their first property in the borough. This is now the main base for the One Stop Shop, the lead venue for all domestic and sexual violence cases.

Lee Phanurat-Bennett


Lee Phanurat-Bennett is Managing Director of Accordant Co. Ltd in Thailand.

He is a business person, communications expert, strategist, and lawyer (admitted to Bars of New York State and also England and Wales) involved in business internationally. He represents various clients globally, including HNW and Ultra-HNW clients, corporations, SMEs and startups.

Accordant arranges, project manages, and oversees their clients’ various deals and business interests, including negotiating and settling of contract terms, providing counsel, due diligence, creating and implementing action plans, instructing and overseeing other professionals on their clients' behalf, acting as their clients' advocate and representative, and ensuring their clients' objectives are achieved according to specific criteria and within their desired timeframe.
Accordant also matches high-quality startups and established businesses with high value investors globally.

The company is also involved in the importing, distributing, and selling of high-end products in Asia and elsewhere. Lee's company is continually expanding their range of products, services, and territory. The company is particularly interested in unique and innovative products and services, and they use their expertise, experience, and established networks to gain traction in the market place.

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